The older gentleman cleared the area and thanked concerned passers-by for their help. Quinn assisted Anna in sitting up slowly. Anna saw the worry etched in Quinn’s face. “I really am okay, Quinn,” she offered. “I just need to eat something and sleep. And take my medication,” Anna added half-heartedly, hoping there would be no more questions. She truly despised being treated like a fragile child, even though she did recognize that in her current state she did appear fairly irresponsible and helpless.
“Then medication, food and sleep are exactly what we will get you,” Quinn stated. “Where is your medication?”
Anna rested her aching head against Quinn’s shoulder. Even in her shame, she could appreciate the spicy scent of her new friend. She made a mental note to make sure she questioned Quinn on his favorite cologne once this ordeal was over. She sighed heavily as she admitted, “I had a refill waiting to be picked up at my pharmacy but I am fairly certain it has been re-shelved. It was to be picked up two weeks ago.”
Quinn quietly took in this information. “Where were you headed when you called me?” he gently probed.
Anna weakly smiled, “To this coffee shop,” she indicated with a tip of her head.
“And where were you coming from?”
“My art studio, which is in my apartment building,” Anna easily answered.
“Where is that located?” Quinn chuckled as he realized he was going to have to pull every piece of information out of this stubborn, independent woman.
Ten minutes later, Anna was nestled in her very own bed with orange juice and ice water close at hand. She listened to his voice as he made calls on his cell phone in her kitchen, obviously searching for something to feed her. With her exhaustion and body rebelling in grand fashion, she was quickly overwhelmed with tears. This was not how she had envisioned her future with the mysterious, sexy stranger playing out. She was no damsel in distress and she knew that Quinn did not have time in his life for drama queens. She might as well accept that today was pretty much the end for them.
Quinn stood at the door of Anna’s photography studio. He was in awe of the inspiring and emotional images displayed. He was not an artist of any kind but he had great appreciation for the depth of perception one must possess to capture all facets of humanity such as Anna had in her photography. Tears glazed Quinn’s eyes as he looked at the intense pain etched in a young mother’s face as her husband touched the crown of their baby’s head for the first time. How Anna was able to balance that pain with the father’s pride and love shown only with his fingertips gripped Quinn’s heart and pulled forth a memory he had buried for a decade. He grasped the doorframe as the intense heartache threatened to cripple him. Relying on years of meditative therapy, he surrendered all thoughts to his breathing, focusing only on that most basic function of life.
Once he had regained his control he hurriedly retreated back to Anna’s living room so that he could greet his sister when she arrived with the list of items he had insisted upon. Tanya’s timing was impeccable as he heard her brash knock on the door. He opened the door but thrust his hand over her mouth before she could start firing her loud questions into the silent apartment. He did not want to take the chance on causing Anna any more distress. He had to bite back a laugh at the fire in Tanya’s green eyes as he led her to Anna’s kitchen. When he was certain that Tanya would not unleash her temper on him, he lowered his hand and immediately expressed his gratitude with a quick kiss to his sister’s forehead.
Taking the bags from her arms, Quinn offered his sister a very vague outline of the events that led to his need of her assistance. Together, they put away the groceries Quinn wanted on hand for Anna after she recovered. After all the food had been sorted and a tray of the best chicken and dumplings to be found north of the Mason-Dixon Line had been assembled, Tanya gave Quinn the prescription bottle she had retrieved from the local pharmacy.
“This is for a thyroid deficiency, Brother. It is something she must take every day for the rest of her life. I don’t mean to scare you, but if she goes too long without it, her symptoms become more severe and could lead to a coma. Also, not having enough of this in her body will make her irritable, emotional and possibly even depressed. So, step carefully and watch your overbearing attitude!” Tanya advised as she handed him the bottle. Tanya took a moment to look around the kitchen and living room before turning back to her brother. “And one last thing, Quinn. Don’t give her roses, daisies, carnations or sunflowers. Go for the more exotic and unique. She’s a romantic, but not a pushover,” Tanya grinned at him as she let herself out the door.
Quinn chuckled at his sister’s insight and knew without a doubt that Tanya and Anna would become fast friends if given the opportunity. It seemed that Anna had won his temperamental sister over without even meeting her. Quinn grabbed the tray of food and medicine and headed into Anna’s bedroom. He was taken aback to find Anna frantically wiping tears from her pale cheeks. He put down the tray and sat beside her on the bed.
Taking out his handkerchief, he tenderly wiped away the last of the tears, giving himself time to get his thoughts in order before he said anything to chase this beautiful and talented woman from his life. “I believe I made you a deal earlier and you have earned the right to ask me three questions,” Quinn offered as a distraction to Anna’s obvious discomfort.
“Only three?” Anna demanded as her temper quickly splashed her cheeks red and the tears evaporated with the rise of her testy mood.
“If you attempt to get up from this bed, then you will only have two questions,” Quinn admonished as he pulled the blankets snugly around his fiery patient.
His admiration for Anna only grew as he watched her quickly control her emotions and words in what he knew was an utterly distasteful situation for her to depend upon a stranger right now. Moving the tray into Anna’s lap, Quinn suggested, “Perhaps you would like a little time to think about those questions while you eat and AFTER you take your medicine.” Before Anna could spew any obscenities at him for coming across as domineering, Quinn added, “Please, Anna. It really would ease my mind if you ate something and restarted your medication. I promise no lectures.”
Anna looked down at the bowl shamefully. She was acting like a spoiled brat when Quinn had done nothing but gone out of his way to care for her. And what true Southern girl could turn down homemade chicken dumplings? She nodded and offered Quinn a subdued smile before asking, “Did you happen to get any iced sweet tea?”
“Be careful. You’re letting your Southern roots show,” teased Quinn as he took the spoon and filled it with the chicken stew. Anna had never been fed by a man before and she was too stunned to refuse Quinn now.